NIMHD announced the 2017 William G. Coleman, Jr., Ph.D., Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Innovation Award. Dr. Coleman was a distinguished member of the scientific community. He became the first permanent African American scientific director in the history of the NIH Intramural Research Program in January 2011 when he was appointed to direct the NIMHD Intramural Research Program. He was responsible for directing NIMHDs trans-disciplinary portfolio focusing primarily on the biological and non-biological determinants of health disparities. His research included substantial work on the biosynthesis of lipopolysaccharide and on the innate and adaptive immune response to Helicobacter pylori infection. H. pylori, a type of bacteria that causes infection in the stomach, is associated with gastritis, ulcers and gastric cancers, which affect millions of Americans and is more common among Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic blacks. Dr. Coleman was known as a proponent of mentorship, and dedicated much of his time to training future scientists - particularly around disparities research. The Coleman Award, a competitive award, seeks to support innovative research ideas and concepts - proposing potential for high impact in areas of minority health and health disparities research. The application process was opened to postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists, and staff clinicians under the mentorship of either NIMHD intramural or NIMHD adjunct intramural investigators. Applicants were required to present a three-page proposal, central hypothesis, detailed specific aims, and a discussion of the expected outcome and possible anticipated pitfalls to the approach. They were also asked to include a description of how successful completion of the proposal will influence the advancement of the science of minority health and, or health disparities. The award provides opportunities for investigators who are early in their careers to conduct studies that we hope will help advance the science of minority health and health disparities. Award recipients received $15,000, each for supplies and services to be used in FY 2017. Three postdoctoral fellows within the NIH Intramural Research Program were selected to receive the first William G. Coleman Jr., Ph.D., Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Innovation Award. The awardees are fellows at NCI, NHGRI, and NIMHD. They are: Dr. Tracy M. Layne is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute. She received her M.P.H. at the Boston University School of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology. Dr. Layne then completed her Ph.D. as part of the Yale-National Cancer Institute Partnership Training Program in Cancer Epidemiology in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. Her project Prospective Metabolomic Profiling and Prostate Cancer Risk in African American Men, seeks to identify the biochemical characteristics of prostate cancer in African American men that may contribute to their excess disease burden. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (link is external), African American men have the highest incidence rate, and are more likely to die from prostate cancer than any other racial or ethnic group. Research also shows that African American men experience more aggressive forms of disease and at younger ages. Despite these long-standing disparities, this population remains an under-studied, high risk group. Further research is needed to bridge the gaps in our understanding of this disease among African American men. Dr. Candace Middlebrooks is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Human Genome Research Institute. She obtained a M.S. degree in Natural Science from the University of Buffalo and a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology at Emory University where she performed research in the field of Genetic Epidemiology. Her project Investigation of Genetic Risk Modifiers of Leg Ulcer Development in Sickle Cell Patients Using Whole Exome Sequencing and Microbiome Characterization, will examine the germline whole exome sequences of the INSIGHTS study patients who have, or do not have leg ulcers - to identify genetic variation that may contribute to increased risk for leg ulcers. Leg ulcers are a common and disabling complication of sickle cell disease (SCD), which is an inherited blood disorder that is present at birth and affects approximately 100,000 Americans. One in 13 African American babies (link is external) is born with the sickle cell trait (SCT), meaning they carry a single gene for SCD and can pass it along to their children; however, trait carriers usually do not have symptoms of SCD and live a normal life. Dr. Melanie Sabado is a postdoctoral fellow at NIMHD. She earned her Ph.D. in Health Promotion Sciences with a focus in Community and Global Health from Claremont Graduate University. She received her M.P.H. with a concentration in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from California State University, Fullerton. Her project Assessment of Mental Health Behaviors and Stigma Among Young Adult Pacific Islanders, will explore young adult Pacific Islander needs, attitudes, and beliefs regarding mental health and factors that encourage or hinder their participation in health care services, access, and utilization. Over 2.2 million of the Asian American-Pacific Islander population had a diagnosable mental illness in 2014. Mental health disparities are understudied and underrepresented among Pacific Islander communities, where a better understanding about cultural stigma, as well as other barriers to seeking treatment and access to care can begin to provide insights toward better outcomes.

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